WINCHESTER, N.H. -- The Police Explorers Program in Alstead had a tremendous impact on Cameron Prior’s life.
It taught him the ins and outs of an officer’s life and started him on the path toward a career in law enforcement. Now known as Officer Prior of the Winchester Police Department, he has decided to develop an identical program in town to offer young people the same opportunity to learn what working in public safety is all about.
Tuesday saw the birth of the Winchester Police Explorers Program, with two young men getting a run-down of what it will entail and a tour of the town’s police department at an open house. Two high School students, Noah Lorette and Matt Ammann, watched an instructional DVD on a projector screen and listened to what Andrew Murphy, exploring executive with the N.H. Exploring Program, and Prior speak briefly. The two boys decided on setting the first meeting for Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Exploring is a worksite-based program of Learning for Life, a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women 14 to 20 years old.
"Exploring is what is sounds like, guys. You are exploring a career. Here at the Winchester PD, you guys will are going to have that real hands-on experience and the point of the program is to expose you guys to that career," he told Ammann, Lorette and Lorette’s father, Andy. "We don’t want anybody coming in saying, ‘I definitely want to be a police officer.’ This program might persuade you to move in that direction but the point of it is to explore the career and they have so many resources here at the PD."
He said there are about 900 Explorers in New Hampshire.
Prior addressed the low numbers at the open house and said there are rarely more than two people present at the beginning. He said he would be shocked if 10 or 20 people showed up at any open house.
He and Sgt. Scott Hurley told the attendees the program will feature all sorts of training (including bomb threat responses and marksmanship) and ride-alongs in police vehicles. Prior stressed the importance of this type of program for the Winchester Police Department, which recorded 413 arrests last year. He said Winchester is the second-busiest town in Cheshire County in terms of police activity, second only to the city of Keene.
Prior spoke about the great experiences he had in Alstead, starting when he was 14. He told the young men in attendance that there will be a lot of fun activities, such as pizza parties, involved with the program. He told them they will be the pioneers of the Winchester program and design its patches and uniforms.
The guests then got a tour of police station, visiting the booking room, patrol room, interview room and dispatch room as well as where the supervisor works and where records are stored. Prior also brought a police cruiser in the garage, which also houses apparatus for the fire department and emergency medical technicians, and showed off its new paint job and decals that were donated by local small businesses.
After the open house, Murphy and Prior expressed hope that Lorette and Ammann will spread the word to their buddies.
"I have a lot of confidence that, by word of mouth, this program is going to get out there," Prior said, "and we’re going to have a lot of people coming into the program and getting involved and having a really good time."
Before leaving, Andy Lorette said he is interesting in joining his son and possibly becoming a parent advisor.
"I’ve also been intrigued by law enforcement. I watch shows like ‘Alaska State Troopers,’ and I can’t get enough of it," he said with a laugh. "I just find their work extremely interesting."
He said he is going to fill an advisor form, sit in on the first meeting and take it from there.
Noah, 17, said he realized a few years ago he wants a career in law enforcement.
"It was cool," he said of the open house. "I think it will be really fun."
Ammann, whose father works part-time for the Winchester Police Department, said he didn’t know what to expect but is looking forward to more meetings.
Prior said Lorette and Ammann will leave a legacy with the Winchester program simply by being the first to join.
"They’re setting the foundation for 20 to 30 years of this program. They are the founding members of the police explorers," he said. "They will be given all the power and the police department is going to provide the experience, the tools, the training equipment and all the other resources for them to run their own post and take it wherever they want to go. They’re really breaking ground here."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.